Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Not Exactly Up There With Climbing Mt. Everest -- My FiftyFifty Challenge


"If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes." -Andrew Carnegie

I’m going to come right out and say it: laziness is my standard operating mode.  That doesn’t mean you’ll find me sitting around all day watching Court TV.  Dog walking, traveling, and gardening are default activities  Over my 50+ years, though, the path of “good enough” seemed my favorite to travel.  I did just enough to be good at things but not enough to excel.  In music, I could play what was put in front of me, but I didn’t push myself to be at a professional level.  I could write and play softball, but since others were better at it I did it only for fun.  I exercise now just enough to be able to continue hiking and pick up my large dog, but not enough to actually get into great shape.  I did manage to finish my Ph.d dissertation.

However, the crave for a real challenge gurgles in my stomach.  Before I bow out of this life I want to grab hold of difficult goals and wrestle them to the ground.  I want to be Rocky running up the steps with his theme music swelling in the background.  Horrid visions of myself sitting in front of the television with a microwave dinner on a TV tray and watching Lawrence Welk reruns while my neighbors jog past on their way to salsa dancing lessons fill my waking hours (say, when sitting in front of the television watching Republican debate #632).

Some my age who wake up one morning with a sudden urge for challenges might run a marathon or eat bugs in Malaysia or something like that.  Extremes are not my thing, though.  Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up, or get that darn book written, or find myself published in something every month of the year would be great goals.  But, gee, they all require such long-term commitments.  They all demand so much of me.  Even that learning French aspiration has faded a bit (although it’s time to ratchet it up before traveling again this summer).

"There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams. Then they put the box away and bring it out once in a while to look in it, and yep, they're still there." - Erma Bombeck
So I was glad to find a challenge right up my alley -- the FiftyFifty Challenge – 50 books and 50 movies in one year. My house is overflowing with books and movies, so you would think that this would be a cinch.  However, I have a tendency to read three books at once and not finish any.  And I frequently fall asleep while watching movies at home and never see the end.  Plus I’m so undisciplined about it all, tackling things broadly but never deeply.  I might read one Jane Austen, but I’ve never read all.  When teaching and researching at the university level, all of my reading was so targeted, such clear objectives.  I never had to ask myself what next.  Now I just dabble.

Easy-peasy, right?  Each week just skip a couple of Law and Order reruns to watch a movie.  And there are plenty of short Hemingway novels out there to breeze through.  It doesn’t all have to be Dostoevsky.  But where’s the challenge in that?  In fact, one definition of challenge is “to stimulate by making demands on the intellect.”  Ah, so there’s the catch. I have to make demands on myself.

And so I will.  I’m going to read and watch according to themes and report back to you on a separate page on this blog.
My movie goals:
- 10  foreign movies (I’m behind in my watching)
- 10 contemporary movies (whatever is in the theaters or came out in 2011)
- 10 documentaries (what can I learn?)
- 10 pre-1950 movies (I love old movies so an excuse to find some I haven’t seen)
- 10 Sundance award winners (find something I wouldn’t normally watch)

My book goals:
- 10 craft books on writing (I usually end up skimming them)
- 10 literary fiction or poetry (William Faulkner, here I come)
- 10 travel books (I’ll start with the large stack under my bedside table)
- 10 memoirs (if I want to write like that I need to read a variety)
- 10 by or about Edith Wharton (getting deeply into a writer I love)

 "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." 
-Calvin Coolidge
Join me in this undertaking (although let’s hope it doesn’t put me completely under).  You can sign on and see how others are approaching the challenge at the FiftyFifty website.  If 50/50 is too much, try your own half-marathon challenge and do 25/25.  Or if books and movies aren’t your thing find two other interests to do 50/50, e.g., 50 jigsaw puzzles and 50 bikes rides of at least five miles.

Something tells me that if I can discipline myself to do this one thing, at the end of the year several other goals that had been languishing in my dream box will be crossed off my to-do list.  Mais oui!  For now, though, it’s all about pressing on.

Do you have any long-term challenges for yourself this year?  What are they and why did you choose them If you tried the 50/50 what movie or book themes would you tackle?  For example, would you “major” in sci-fi films and minor in Martin Scorcese? ?  If you developed your own 50/50 challenge, what would you pair to accomplish it?  Share your thoughts in the comments box.

Maybe Skyler and I can make a dent in one of several bookcases in my house


brenda said...

I like you shelves.. I shouldn't do this but I do, when I enter someone's home for the first time my eyes immediately scan for bookshelves. If I don’t see them… well, it’s not a good thing. Anyho, as for your challenge, good luck. Movies is not an issue for me, books was never an issue until the writing thing started. You’re list of books is lofty. I’d can’t make lists like that because I can’t trust myself to follow through.. I am easily swayed by glitzy book covers. I am cheering for you.

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for the rah-rah. I look for bookshelves myself. I already feel myself straying to something else sitting on my shelf, but the challenge is also about discipline for me.

Anonymous said...

I like your library, Julie. I second what Brenda said: I also look at the books wherever I go, and your library looks ‘live-in’. It’s a place to go for comfort.
I recently found a very interesting website for book lovers: It’s a social website for readers. I joined a couple weeks ago and I’m learning so much about books and authors. Some I’ve never heard before. My digital ‘to read’ shelf is swelling rapidly. You’ll love it.

Julie Farrar said...

Yes, Olga, I know GoodReads. On my sidebar I have my GR badge. My list of books has not been updated recently, though.

monicastangledweb said...

Well, Julie, I'm glad to see you're joining me in the Fifty Fifty challenge. I'm looking forward to reading about how you're doing. Glad you were inspired to take this on!

Julie Farrar said...

Yes, Monica. I thought about it for awhile before signing on. This is the year I wanted to develop more discipline. I figured this would be a good way to practice that skill.

Anonymous said...

YAY JULIE!!! I have run many marathons and have even tackled running at Mt. Everest Base Camp, but this Fifty Fifty Challenge leaves me shaking in my boots! I'm so impressed with both you and Monica for taking it on. Good luck! I'm sure it will be fun, challenging and fulfilling. I can't wait to read your reviews. Enjoy the adventure!

Carrie Daws said...

Yay! I good goal. I think I will join you -- but not necessarily just for movies. I already made a goal of reading 48 books this year -- 4 per month. I think I will add 48 shows -- could be movies or TV since I tend to not get either done and never take time to destress! My daughter has a favorite show so I could easily sit down with her once a week and watch it -- picking up DVDs of the old ones when they are doing re-runs or other things. Thanks for the challenge!

Anne B Wright said...

Wow - this is just the thing for me! I have piles of books that I Need to Read and this is going to be my motivation in 2012. But I also like your list. Maybe I can be organized like that, too. And movies, yes! Once upon a time I decided to catalog the books I read (list them) and that lasted about the time it took to find an index card and write the titles down. But this is a challenge! Thanks Julie!

Julie Farrar said...

Oh, Anne. I definitely need to create an index of my book as insurance against potential disaster (and my CD's while I'm at it). The beauty of creating my challenge categories is so often I want to read something, but I have so many books on my to-be-read pile or on a list in my computer that I actually can't make a decision, so I sit down and watch Rachel Maddow. Not being able to decide what to read from my bounty keeps me from reading any of it.

Carrie, thanks for reading. I think the idea of committing to watching what is dear to your daughter's heart is a great idea. And thank heavens for Netflix!

Anonymous said...

Julie, I'm looking forward to reading the updates of how you're doing on the challenge. Skyler looks ready for anything and I love how you've established goals for both the movies and books. I think I could pass the film challenge, but the books? Not so much. I find I have a hard time staying focused on my reading when there's always so much to do in the home! That said, I shall live vicariously through you and pretend I'm sitting in front of that fabulous bookcase! :)

Anonymous said...

I am giving this 50/50 challenge a try too! The books aren't that bad for me to accomplish. The movies are tougher. Can I say that I'm drooling over your bookshelves?

Julie Farrar said...

Ha, ha, Leah. I appreciate your comment about my bookshelf but this is just the beginning. I should do a book shelf/table of my house some day for the blog. I'm going to start home renovations this year and so much of it is simply to add MORE shelves. My husband and I are both readers and I am incapable of giving away any books. said...

Yah! Thanks for joining us and making such a great post! And it's not Everest but it's close! (Okay, not really. A small hill perhaps?)

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